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Leslie Born in 1877
Romeoville, 1877-1885. Philip Leslie Biggins was born January 26, 1877, on a farm in DuPage Township, Will County, Illinois. He was known by his middle name, Leslie. In 1877, there were 38 states in the Union, the last being Colorado. Rutherford B. Hayes was President of the United States.
Leslie was baptized by Father Maurice J. Dorney, on January 29, 1877. His godfather was Peter Ward an Irishman on a nearby farm. His godmother was Brigitta Cunningham, who had been a witness for his parents' marriage. This was prior to completion of the large new limestone St.Dennis Church in 1879, so the baptism may have taken place at the small old wooden church. According to the Baptismal Record, Leslie received a private baptism from Father J. E. Shannahan on February 8, 1877.
The history of St. Dennis Church, 150 Years of Faith, includes a drawing of the first church. In 1838, St. Dennis was a missionary church in a small frame shanty located in Haytown, also known as Emmetsburg, in Cook County adjacent to the Will County line, on the bluffs of the DesPlaines River about three miles north northeast of the present-day village of Lockport. The structure had been St. Patrick's Church in Lemont. In 1846, St. Dennis became a parish and the small wooden church was moved from Haytown to Lockport. In 1879, it was replaced by the present large limestone church.
Leslie's paternal grandparents were Patrick and Bridget Biggins, who immigrated from County Mayo, Ireland, to Ontario, Canada, and then to Will County, Illinois. They owned a 160-acre farm on the south side of what is now the equivalent of 755 W. Normantown Road in Romeoville, Illinois. The western 80 acres is now a subdivision called Lakewood Estates. The eastern 80 acres is now the Beverly Skoff Elementary School and the John J. Lukancic Middle School.
Leslie's maternal grandparents were James and Bridget McNally, who immigrated from Ireland to Vermont or New York sometime before 1843 and then to Chicago, Illinois, between 1849 and 1853. Beginning in 1858, the Chicago city directory shows James working as a laborer and the McNallys living at 241 Sherman in Chicago, just south of Dearborn Station, in St. Louis parish. St. Louis Church was founded in 1850 at Sherman and Polk streets. It was a French parish that included many Irish. Leslie's grandfather James died in Chicago in 1861, leaving a wife and three children. Leslie's mother Sarah was 15.
In 1880, a brother Arthur was born. This was the second and last child of Philip and Sarah.
On April 10, 1882, Leslie's grandfather Patrick Biggins died at age 75. The Will County Commercial Advertiser reported the day after that “consumption, that relentless destroyer of man, was the disease that sought and finally carried him to his long home the morning of April 10th.” Funeral rites at St. Dennis Church included Solemn High Mass. We do not know for sure where Patrick and Bridget Biggins are buried. However, there is a large limestone tombstone in St. Dennis Cemetery at 17th and Jefferson Streets in South Lockport with the name “Biggins” in large letters. The rest of the tombstone is illegible.
In 1889, the Will County Circuit Court ordered the Sheriff to sell Philip’s 80 acres and his brother Francis’ 40 acres to Fithian & Cowing to settle debts. Each had 15 months to redeem the property. Philip’s debt was to the estate of Barrett B. Clark. Francis’ debt was to the estate of George J. Munroe.
In 1891, Leslie graduated from elementary school. At some point, he went to work at the dry goods store of Willard Scott & Co. on the east side of Washington Street between Jefferson and Van Buren Avenues.
The Will County Coroner’s Record of September 24, 1891, which is in the files of the Will County Historical Society, reported that Leslie's uncle, Francis Biggins, was run over by a Chicago & Alton railroad train in Lockport “while trying to board it while under influence of liquor.”
The 1893 Chicago city directory shows Leslie, 16, working as an electrician and living at 4818 S. Shields Avenue in the Fuller Park community on Chicago's south side. Between the first of May and the end of October in 1893, an estimated 27 million people attended Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition, a few miles south southeast of where Leslie was living. Electricity was one of the new developments celebrated by the Columbian Exposition.
The 1894 Chicago city directory shows Leslie working as a clerk at Swift’s in the stock yards and living in Naperville.
Chicago, Englewood, 1897-1900. In 1897, Leslie moved with his mother to 6239 S. Bishop Street in the Englewood community on Chicago's south side. The city directory shows Leslie living with his mother Sarah without his father. In 1898, they moved a few blocks to 6025 S. Throop Street. The 1898 directory lists his mother as a widow. The 1899 directory, however, lists Leslie's father instead of his mother and shows them living at 1204 W. 63rd Street (1104 W. 63rd Street after 1909). The 1899 directory shows his father working as a car repairer. The 1900 census shows his parents were living together, and his father working as a day laborer.
Emily Born in 1878
Chicago, Near North Side, 1878-1883. Emily Agnes Foy was born on February 24, 1878. In 1878, there were 38 states in the Union, the last being Colorado. Rutherford B. Hayes was President of the United States.
Emily was baptized as Emma Foy on March 3, 1878. Her godmother was Margaret Foy, her father's sister. Her godfather was Michael Stanton, who could have been her mother's brother or cousin.
Emily was baptized by Father John McMullen, vicar general of the diocese, at the new Holy Name Cathedral. The new cathedral had been completed in 1875, following the Chicago Fire of 1871. Three years after Emily was baptized, in 1881, Pope Leo XIII named Father McMullen the first Bishop of Davenport, Iowa.
Emily was the second child of John and Mary Stanton Foy. Both were born in Ireland. John immigrated with his parents as a baby. Mary immigrated at 15. Her parents came six years later. John and Mary lived in Holy Name parish in the rear of 279 N. Market Street (933 N. Orleans Street after renumbering in 1909 and a name change) on the Near North Side of Chicago. This was about six blocks west and north of Holy Name. The Chicago directories show them living at 279 Market from 1872 to 1878.
Emily had an older brother, William, who was born in 1873.
Emily's maternal grandparents were William and Bridget O'Malley Stanton. They had three children in Ireland: Michael, Mary, and Margaret. The two older children immigrated to Chicago in the 1864. Their parents and Margaret immigrated to Chicago in 1872. William died in 1873, five years before Emily was born.
Emily's paternal grandparents were Dominick and Anne Walsh Foy. They emigrated around 1849 from the townland of Derreennascooba, nine miles south of Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland, to Nunda, New York. Emily's father John was one year old at the time. In 1850, Anne Walsh Foy died, and Dominick remarried.
In 1879, Emily's sister, Mary Louise, was born. Mary Louise was called Molly.
Sometime between 1878 and 1880, the family moved a short block north. The 1880 and 1881 directories show John and Mary living at the rear of 147 Oak Street (354 W. Oak Street after 1909).
The 1882 directory shows them living 1.3 miles south and east at 247 Michigan Street (42 E. Hubbard Street after renumbering in 1909 and a name change).
Chicago, Lincoln Park, 1892-1920. In 1892 the family moved to the Lincoln Park section of Chicago at 144 Osgood Street (2053 N. Kenmore Avenue after renumbering in 1909 and a name change). This was three miles northwest of where they lived in the Loop. It was in St. Vincent's parish, a block and a half south of St. Vincent's Church and DePaul University.
In 1893, construction started on the elevated line that would run down the alley between Sheffield and Bissell, a half block west of 950-52 Altgeld. In 1900, elevated trains began operating from the Loop to Wilson Avenue, with a stop at Fullerton and Sheffield.
Emily graduated from Lake View High School, probably starting in 1892 and graduating in 1896. The school is 2.3 miles north and west of 950 Altgeld at 4015 N. Ashland Avenue.
In 1897, Emily's brother, William, a traveling salesman, married Catherine McCaffery. They lived at 128 Webster (1252 W. Webster Avenue after 1909) and had two children: John in 1899 and Alice in 1901.
Leslie and Emily Marry in 1900, Have 5 Children
Chicago, Greater Grand Crossing, 1900-1900. Leslie and Emily first lived in the Greater Grand Crossing community on Chicago's south side. The city directory shows them at 6923 S. Vernon Avenue. Leslie left his job as a clerk for Swift’s in the stock yards and started working as a bookkeeper for a cement company, the Garden City Sand Co., in the Loop.
Chicago, Englewood, 1900-1901. After only a short time on Vernon Avenue, Leslie and Emily moved two miles west northwest to the Englewood community. The 1900 census, which was taken in June, shows Leslie and Emily living at 6418 S. Lowe Avenue.
In 1901, Emily's grandfather Dominick died. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in a plot purchased in 1867 by Dominick’s brother Thomas (Section D, Block 6, Lot 28).
On August 1. 1902, Leslie and Emily’s first child, Mary Kathleen, was born.
In 1902, Emily's brother, William Foy, died when he was only 28, leaving his wife Catherine and two small children. He was buried in a plot purchased by his father at Mount Carmel Cemetery. The plot is in Section B, Block 2, Lot 19. Catherine moved to 133 Racine (2140 N. Racine Avenue after 1909). In 1912, they moved to 1624 Edgewater (1624 W. Gregory Street after 1913).
On October 23, 1903, Emily's grandmother, Bridget O'Malley Stanton, 72, died of capillary bronchitis. At that time and in the 1900 census, Bridget was living with Emily's parents on Altgeld Street. Bridget had been a widow for 30 years.
In 1904/1905 Leslie and Emily moved a few blocks to 22 Janssen Avenue (3423 N. Janssen Avenue after 1909).
On March 25, 1905, Leslie and Emily's second child, Emily Maria, was born.
Chicago, Lincoln Park, 1905-1954. In 1905 Leslie and Emily moved with Kathleen and baby Emily to her parents' building in St. Vincent's Parish at 1412 Dunning Street (now 950 W. Altgeld Street) in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago.
Also in 1905, Leslie was promoted from bookkeeper to salesman by the Garden City Sand Co. Around this time, John Rauhoff developed ironite and began manufacturing it in a factory in Tinley Park, near Chicago. Ironite is an additive for waterproofing cement. It was used in building the Hoover Dam in 1932-36.
Peter Biggins remembers hearing that his grandfather Leslie worked on waterproofing at Columbus Hospital, where he dealt directly with Mother Francis Xavier Cabrini. Mother Cabrini was born in Sant’ Angelo Lodigiano, near Milan, Italy, in 1850 and came to America in 1889. Columbus Hospital was converted from a hotel in Lincoln Park by Mother Cabrini in 1906. Suffering from malaria, Mother Cabrini died in 1917, in a wicker chair in her room at the convent in Columbus Hospital. She was canonized a saint in 1946, and is the patron of immigrants. Her feast day is November 13. Two children of Peter and Marilyn Biggins were born here in 1970 and 1972. The hospital closed in 2002. The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was opened here in 2012.
Between 1907 and 1914, it must have been difficult for people to remember where Leslie and Emily lived. In 1907, Dunning Street became Greenwood Terrace. In 1909, number 1412 became number 950, as the numbering system was oriented to State Street to the east instead of Western Avenue to the west. In 1913, Greenwood Terrace became DaTamble. In 1914, DaTamble became Altgeld Street.
On April 17, 1909, Leslie and Emily's third child, Philip Leslie was born.
On September 2, 1910, their fourth child, John Alfred, was born. He was called "Al." He was baptized at St. Vincent's on September 25 by Father J. V. Devine, C.M. Godfather was his uncle George Donahue. Godmother was Mary Foy. He had three relatives that could have been Mary Foy: John Foy's sister, John Foy's cousin Mayme, or the daughter of John Foy's cousin Patrick.
In 1911, Leslie's mother Sarah McNally Biggins died and was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Section D, Block 9, Lot 11. This plot had been purchased by Sarah's mother Bridget and Sarah's brother-in-law John Dempsey to bury Sarah's father in 1861.
In 1913, Leslie's father Philip Biggins died and was buried next to Sarah at Calvary Cemetery. From 1911 to 1913, Philip lived at 950 Altgeld with Leslie and Emily.
On July 13, 1913, Leslie and Emily’s last child, Richard Vincent was born.
Leslie and Emily's children attended St. Vincent's Grammar School.
In 1914, Emily's father John built an apartment building at 1035-41 W. Byron Street, two blocks north of Wrigley Field. The building permit was taken out in the names of his daughters Emily Foy Biggins and Molly Foy Donahue. The building has the name “Foy” in raised letters over its two entryways. It was listed in the 1923 city directory as the Foy Apartments. The building now is owned by a Gerry Morrissey who bought it in the 1980s.
In 1915, Emily became one of the founding members of the DePaul Settlement Club, which supported the DePaul Day Nursery and Settlement House, now called the St. Vincent de Paul Center. The Center provides day care for children of working mothers. It was located at 2145 N. Halsted Street. The Club met twice a month and donated money to the Center. Emily was recording Secretary of the Club for many years.
In 1917, Leslie started his own waterproofing company. In the 1917 Chicago city directory, Leslie was no longer shown as working for George de Smet. His occupation was waterproofing. His 1918 draft registration shows that he was self-employed as a contractor with an office in room 422 in the Conway Building. In 1923, he was listed as President, Central Ironite Waterproofing Co. In 1928, he was listed as President-Manager, Central Ironite Waterproofing Co. In the 1920 and 1930 censuses, Leslie was listed as a waterproofing contractor. Stationary in later years said Leslie Biggins Incorporated, with the tag line: Lebinite Metallic Waterproofing. Perhaps the trade name "Lebinite" was created from the first two letters of Leslie and Biggins.
Bill Donahue remembers that Leslie worked on waterproofing at Techny Seminary in Techny, Illinois. Techny was built in 1909, and now is known as Techny Towers Retreat House. Jack Donahue remembers that Leslie worked on waterproofing at Lane Tech High School. Lane Tech was built in 1908. Leslie Biggins Uhnavy remembers that Leslie worked on waterproofing at Taft High School. Taft High School was built in 1939. Sarah Biggins Kelzenberg remembers that Leslie worked on waterproofing the subway system in Chicago. Construction of the Chicago subway system started in 1938. Emily Biggins Williams remembers that Leslie worked on an two colleges she attended: Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, and Mundelein College, now part of Loyola Chicago.
On September 12, 1918, two months before the end of the Great War, Leslie registered for the draft in Chicago. His draft registration says he was a contractor, age 41, medium height, slender build, had gray eyes and gray hair. On the day he registered, the American Expeditionary Forces under commander in chief General John J. Pershing launched its first major offensive in Europe as an independent army. The U.S.-led attack occurred in the Saint-Mihiel salient, a triangular area of land between Verdun and Nancy occupied by the German army since the fall of 1914. The Saint-Mihiel salient was strategically important as it hindered rail communications between Paris and the eastern sections of the front, Eliminating the salient was necessary before the final Allied offensive of the war could begin. Fortunately for the American forces, the Germans had begun pulling out of the salient two days before the offensive was launched. After an early morning artillery bombardment, U.S. infantry and tanks began the attack. Resistance was relatively light, and by September 16, this area of France was liberated from German occupation. The Great War ended November 11, 1918.
On June 16, 1921, Kathleen was among 22 who graduated from De Paul High School for Girls. On May 26, Kathleen played the part of St. Catherine of Siena in a Morality Play. On May 19, the Seniors held a debate in the Gymmnasiium, with Mary Sleton, Allene Love, and Catherine Cavanagh losing by a narrow margein to Kathleen Biggins, Maud Odger, and Mary Elizabeth Dore.
In the summer of 1922, the family went on vacation to Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, 65 miles north northwest of Chicago. With nearly 1000 acres of water, the twin lakes of Mary and Elizabeth have drawn vacationers to numerous resorts as well as ice harvesters in the days of "ice box" refrigeration.
In 1925, Leslie and Emily built the University Court Apartments at 2318-26 N. Sheffield Avenue. The new building was just a few blocks south of Altgeld Street. The family moved to the University Court Apartments, while Emily's father John Foy stayed at Altgeld Street with the Donahues. They issued $500 bearer first mortgage gold bonds with interest at 6.25% per annum payable semi-annually to State Bank of Chicago. Al's family occupied the front unit on the 3rd floor of the 2318 entrance. The architect for the University Court Apartments on Sheffield was the same that John Foy had used on the Foy Apartments on Byron Street. The University Court Apartments are now Sheffield Square Apartments of DePaul University, having been purchased in 1994 by Rev. John P. Minogue, president of the University and grandson of Emily's cousin, Helen Kane Minogue. See: Apartments at DePaul University.
On April 30, 1928, Al finished the minor seminary at St. Vincent’s College, was professed as a Vincentian, and started school at the major seminary, St. Mary of the Barrens in Perryville, 40 miles northwest of Cape Girardeau. A year later, he decided not to become a priest and left Perryville. In 1929, Al was accepted into the engineering school at Northwestern University in Evanston and received a degree in Civil Engineering in 1933.
On November 25, 1930, Leslie and Emily's daughter Kathleen married Philip Joseph Coverdale. Philip’s parents were Philip H. Coverdale (1872-1946) and Pearl O’Neill Coverdale (1881-1937). John Coverdale in England, a cousin of Philip Coverdale, has traced the Coverdales back to the late 1600s in Coverdale, Yorkshire, England, but not as far back as Myles Coverdale (1488-1569). In 1535, Myles Coverdale completed an English translation of the Bible that served as a basis for the King James version completed in 1611. Myles was a bishop who had gone over to the Anglican Church of Henry VIII. Philip Coverdale's ancestors, according to John Coverdale of England, are probably related to Myles Coverdale, but remained Catholic.
On July 13, 1936, Emily's father, John F. Foy died at age 88 at 2318 Sheffield. After requiem Mass at St. Vincent's, John was buried with his wife Mary and his granddaughter Emily in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Section B, Block 2, Lot 19.
In 1937, Leslie and Emily's three sons married. Philip married Olive Taylor in Chicago. Richard Vincent married Virginia Shay in Chicago. Al married Jane Marie Drueke in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A week before Al and Jane were married Jane's sister Irene was killed in a car being driven by Al. They were on their way to prenuptial dinner or birthday party. Irene had been married just two months earlier.
In 1945, Leslie and Emily Biggins sold the University Court Apartments, but they continued to live there.
During the 1940s, Leslie and Emily's daughter Kathleen and family moved to Milwaukee. In 1945, Phil and family bought a house in the Norwood Park section of Chicago. In 1945, Dick and family bought a house in Oak Park that had been owned by Thomas and Mary Higgins Foy and their grown children, Stephen, Mayme, and Kate. In 1948, they moved to a house in the Edison Park section of Chicago. In 1948, after living in St. Louis and Lake Bluff, Al and family bought a house in the suburb of Wilmette.
Edison Park, 1954-1959. In 1954, Leslie and Emily moved from 2318 Sheffield to an apartment that their son Richard built onto their house in the Edison Park section of Chicago. They lived at 7358 N. Osceola Avenue.
Leslie Dies in 1959 at age 82
Chicago Tribune, December, May 26, 1959
Emily Widowed at Age 81
Milwaukee, 1966-1967. In 1966, Emily moved to a nursing home in Milwaukee to be near her daughter, Kathleen Biggins Coverdale.
On June 6, 1967, Emily's son Philip died of a heart attack. He was 58.
Emily Dies in 1967 at Age 89
Chicago Tribune, August 25, 1967
Leslie and Emily Foy Biggins: 5 children, 16 grandchildren
42 great grandchildren
Information on great grandchildren has been excluded. A version of this page without the exclusion is available upon request. Contact Peter or Marilyn Carroll Biggins:
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